On March 27 Pope Francis did something extraordinary: he blessed the entire world with an Urbi et Orbi, (“to the city [of Rome] and to the world”), a special address and blessing that can only be given by a pope, and usually only at Christmas, Easter, and at his consecration. In his address Pope Francis spoke of the gospel passage about Jesus in the boat during a storm at sea. The accompanying apostles were terrified and Jesus questioned their fearful response. Upon reflection I realized that Jesus rebuked the storm, but not the apostles; He challenged their human weakness, (their lack of faith), but He did not judge them. Perhaps like the apostles we too are in need of the gift of greater faith. As we have had to surrender so much, we might also need to offer Jesus our fears and anxieties, knowing He will not judge us, but rather, offers us love. It is only if we offer our honest feelings and thoughts, coming to Him as we are, that we can let Jesus calm the storms in our hearts and heal the fears which can keep us from trusting as completely as we wish we could. As the Pope said near the end of his address, “Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Jesus is the one who cares for us, something we dramatically experience as we enter into Holy Week. The One who is God and man, the great I AM, humbles Himself in unimaginable ways, entering into suffering and death so that we can have life.
Holy Week offers an extraordinary opportunity this year, especially for those who have never experienced the Triduum: we can attend the liturgies via media and thus walk the entire Passion with Jesus, not alone, but with the entire community gathered together though apart, joined by love.* It is a moment in which we can channel our longing for the Eucharist as we participate from our homes beginning with the Holy Thursday liturgy. As we celebrate the Institution of the Priesthood and the Institution of the Eucharist we can give greater thanks for both of these gifts. That we are physically separated from our priests can help us appreciate them all the more, encouraging our prayer for them and also for vocations. We can also grow in gratitude for the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ which would ordinarily be received into our bodies, but now are received only spiritually. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us rejoice and be grateful for these gifts during the Holy Thursday liturgy as we pray for full access to them to be returned.
As the Holy Thursday Mass ends the Blessed Sacrament is usually removed from the Church, representing the absence of Jesus after His death. On Good Friday there is no Eucharist consecrated; we receive from the consecrated hosts that were reserved on Holy Thursday. (There is never reception of the Blood of Christ that day.) But although we have had to let go of these in the physical sense already, perhaps there is another invitation here: instead of bemoaning its ‘loss,’ we can become the Eucharist, letting what we receive spiritually move us outward in new, creative ways. We have to keep our distance from others, yes, but the distancing is meant to be physical, not emotional or spiritual. Therefore, reach out as far as you can by calling, messaging, checking on, volunteering, giving, sharing from your excess, and along with these things, by praying! Ask the intercession of the saints; beg for the mercy of God. Young or old, we can all do something!
Remember that Jesus is the great I AM: His suffering was not to humiliate Him, but to reveal and glorify Him as He offered the unfathomable gift of salvation. While Holy Week is meant to get us in contact with our sinfulness, our contribution to Jesus’ suffering, it does not end in death, but rather in new life. Death is not the end! Jesus rose and He will return again! And we need to remember that with every Resurrection appearance Jesus’ first words were “Be at peace!” These words remind us of His presence, His promises and assurances of the truth He revealed throughout His ministry: “I AM the Bread of Life;” “I AM the Light of the world;” “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” “I AM the gate;” “I AM the Good Shepherd;” I AM the True Vine;” and “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Finally, Jesus said: “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (John 8:58)** St Paul attested to these words when he wrote, “What can separate us from the love of Christ? .... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, [viruses]*** nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(from Romans 8:28-39) And St. Peter also attested to Jesus as I AM by saying, “Lord to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life.” (John 6:68) Let us take these words to heart and be filled with joyful hope this Easter!
May we turn to Jesus our triumphant Lord with St. Paul’s hope and St. Peter’s trust, entering into the Easter season fully even if the darkness would rather we believe that Lent is unending! May we entrust our prayers to the intercession of the saints, especially Mary Most Holy and St. Joseph her chaste spouse! May we embrace Jesus, the Light of the World, the Risen One! May we remember that this present darkness shall pass and Jesus is already victorious! And may we find joy in knowing Jesus, the Son of God, is the great I AM, the Savior of the world! Let us meet in the Heart of the Risen Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* A resource for the Holy Week liturgies is https://www.archgh.org/
This is my diocese, but you can search for your own diocese and livestream the Masses as well. I also recommend Bishop Robert Barron at Word on Fire for daily Masses. He will televise Holy Week liturgies including Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday as well. https://www.wordonfire.org/daily-mass/
** You can find a link to the verses from which these sayings of Jesus are found at https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/jesus-seven-i-am-statements/
*** I inserted the word 'viruses' for emphasis of my point: it is not in the actual quotation.
1. This photo was taken as Pope Francis blessed the world at the end of the Urbi et Orbi. It comes from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/pope-francis-urbi-et-orbi-blessing-coronavirus.html
2. Painting, The Last Supper by Duccio Di Buoninsegna (1308-11)
3. Oil painting, Eucharist in Fruit Wreath by Jan Davidsz de Heem (1648)
4.Icon, I Am the Resurrection and the Life
5. Icon, Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I think this is appropriate for the end of this entry because it shows Mary holding the world, (which is surrounded by the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit), in a loving embrace. You can find it at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations-080-william-hart-mcnichols.html
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart